Afghanistan lawmakers and civil leaders visit India to learn about the Right to Information

Afghanistan lawmakers and civil leaders visit India
FNF South Asia

A group of lawmakers and civil society leaders from Afghanistan concluded a visit to New Delhi aimed at familiarizing them with India’s Right to Information Act and related practices. Entitled the “Right to Information (RTI) Learning Programme”, the one-week course was organized by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) with support from the Regional Office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF). The program was well timed: In early December of this year, Afghanistan became the 101st country to get an access to information law when President Ashraf Ghani signed the legislation.

The Afghan delegation met with Indian RTI practitioners in government and civil society and interacted with Members of Parliament, former Information Commissioners and media members in order to understand the implementation and use of RTI in India. During the interactive session, Mr. Wajahat Habibullah, the former Chief Information Commissioner at the Central Information Commission of India discussed the technicalities of composition, nature and selection procedure of the information commission. Prof. Shekhar Singh, former Convenor of National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, presented campaign practices and the status of RTI through statistical information.

The Afghan participants used the visit to present their Freedom of Information law and discussed campaign plans to increase popular support with Mr. Shailesh Gandhi, the former information commissioner of Central Information Commission. Parliament’s role in establishing the transparency regime around the RTI Act in India was the theme in the meeting with Dr. E. M. S. Natchiappan, who chairs the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances Law and Justice.

Before heading back to Afghanistan, the group visited the FNF-Regional Office for a discussion on the future of Afghanistan and role liberalism can play with Regional Director Dr. Ronald Meinardus, Programme Executive Dona John and Regional Project manager Maria Schneider. “The learning programme couldn't have been better-timed with the participants’ first exposure to the transparency regime in India immediately after their own RTI law being signed in Afghanistan. With CHRI’s support, the group now has a clear roadmap on RTI implementation which could herald a new beginning for governance in Afghanistan”, said Dona John, who helped coordinate the visit.